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The Southern Railway took a key role in expanding the 660 V DC third rail electrified network begun by the London & South Western Railway. As a result of this, and its smaller operating area, its steam locomotive stock was the smallest of the 'Big Four' companies. Yet its locomotives were unique and of great interest. For an explanation of numbering and classification, see British Rail locomotive and multiple unit numbering and classification.



British Railways completed construction of the 'West Country' and 'Merchant Navy' locomotive designs, but did not build any further orders. It abandoned the 'Leader' class experiments, and Bulleid left the UK to carry forward his unusual locomotive designs in Ireland.


Withdrawal of ex-SR locomotives happened mainly towards the end of steam on the Southern Region (in 1967), the pre-Grouping designs having gone before then as electrification spread across the region.

Locomotives of SR Design

With the heavy emphasis on electrification for the London Suburban area and the Brighton main line there was little need for new steam locomotive designs. The main steam tasks were boat trains (Dover, Folkestone and Newhaven), West of England, Kent services and freight. When designing steam locomotives, the designers had some interesting constraints that dictated where the locomotive could be used. Due to the hangover from SE&CR days, most of the lines in Kent were of fairly light construction and would not take the weight of a modern express locomotive until well into the 1930s. Hence the extensive rebuilding (and new construction) of 4-4-0 designs at a time when other lines were busily building pacifics or heavy 4-6-0s.

The ex-SER lines also had the problem of the narrow Mountfield and Bo-Peep tunnels on the Hastingsmarker line, requiring locomotive and rolling stock rather narrower than permitted elsewhere. This problem persisted into British Railways days until eventually the tunnels were single track, giving clearance for normal stock.

Services for west of Southamptonmarker and Salisburymarker had a different set of problems as neither the Southern Railway nor its constituents installed water troughs, thus leading to large tender with greater water capacity than those fitted to similar locomotives on other railways.

New designs were:

Richard E. L. Maunsell (1923–1937)

Maunsell also rebuilt, modified or continued the new construction of earlier classes

O. V. S. Bulleid (1937–1949)

Bulleid was also responsible for the mechanical part of the three electric locomotives (CC1–CC3, later British Railways Class 70) built at Ashford Worksmarker in 1941 (CC1) and 1948 (CC2, CC3). The electrical part was the responsibility of the Southern Railway's Chief Electrical Engineer, Alfred Raworth. Bulleid also designed a 500hp 0-6-0 diesel mechanical shunter powered by a Davey Paxman power unit. This was built at Ashford Worksmarker, though was not introduced until 1950, when it emerged as BR No. 11001.

Locomotives of Constituent Companies

London and South Western Railway

See also North Devon Railway

Joseph Hamilton Beattie (1850–1871)

William George Beattie (1871–1878)

William Adams (1878–1895)

Dugald Drummond (1895–1912)

Robert W. Urie (1912–1922)

South Eastern Railway

B. Cubitt (1842-1845)

James Cudworth (1845-1876)

A. M. Watkin (1876)

Richard Mansell (1877-1878)

James Stirling (1878-1898)

London, Chatham and Dover Railway

W. Cubitt (1853-1860)

W. Martley (1860-1874)

William Kirtley (1874-1898)

South Eastern and Chatham Railway

Before 1899, both the South Eastern Railway and the London, Chatham and Dover Railway had some Crampton locomotives built by Robert Stephenson and Company. The SER also had some Cramptons built by Tulk and Ley.

H. S. Wainwright (1899–1913)

R.E.L.Maunsell (1913–1922)

London, Brighton and South Coast Railway

See also: List of early locomotives of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway
LBSCR 2-2-2WT, built by Sharp Brothers in 1849
LBSCR A1 class Martello

William Stroudley (1870–1889)

R. J. Billinton (1890–1904)

D. Earle Marsh (1905–1911)

L. B. Billinton (1911–1922)

Diesel and electric locomotives

Diesel shunters

  • The Southern Railway built three diesel shunters in 1937, numbered 1–3. These became British Rail 15201–15203, and were later classified as British Rail Class D3/12.
  • Twenty-six similar locomotives were built in 1949–1951 after nationalisation. They were numbered 15211–15236, and were later classified as British Rail Class 12.
  • British Rail 11001, Southern Railway design, built 1949 at Ashford Works

Mainline diesels

  • The Southern designed a prototype class of mainline diesel-electric locomotive. Three were built, although none were finished before nationalisation. They were numbered 10201–10203, and later classified as British Rail Class D16/2.

Mainline electric

  • The Southern Railway also built two mainline electric locomotives numbered CC1 and CC2. They were renumbered 20001 and 20002 after nationalisation. A third locomotive, 20003, was built in 1948. They were later classified as British Rail Class 70

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